Out to make most of `home mountain' advantage

Two young Wanaka locals hope waking up in their own beds will give them an edge over the rest of the field, when the New Zealand Winter Games slopestyle competition starts today.

Wanaka free-skiers Finn Bilous and Jackson Wells will start their Winter Games today in the freeski slopestyle qualifiers.

The event, being held at the Cardrona Alpine Resort, is an International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup competition, which means Winter Olympic qualifying points are up for grabs.

Bilous is coming off a successful 2016-17 season where he won a silver medal at the youth Winter Olympics in 2016 and finished 10th at the World Championships in March.

``I'm really excited to be competing at Winter Games this year. It's always good to be on your home mountain in front of the home crowd.''

With the Winter Olympics in Korea only five months away, Bilous said everyone would be at the top of their game

``It's going to be an awesome event and a good chance for Kiwis to see what our sport is all about.''

Wells is also focused on securing a place at the Olympics, but wants to put on good performance for the home crowd.

``Still trying to qualify for the games but the first goal is always to make it to the finals of this competition and then get a podium finish.''

Wells has been skiing at Cardrona all his life and hopes being at home will give him an advantage over the rest of the field.

``Waking up in your own bed is a luxury.''

As this was the only World Cup event in New Zealand he was eager to achieve a good result.

Last year, Wells completed the world's first quad cork, basically skiing backwards into a jump flipping backwards four times while rotating horizontally at the same time, but he is unlikely to pull that out for the Winter Games.

``Nah, not tomorrow. We might need a bigger jump for that, but I'm pretty happy where I'm at now, so we will see what happens.''

Wells is the youngest member of the famous Wanaka skiing dynasty but injuries have plagued the other three brothers.

Eldest brother Jossi will miss the Winter Games as he recovers from a torn patella tendon but he hopes to recover in time to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Beau-James will return to the freeski halfpipe competition, after recovering from injury, and will be hoping to secure points in his bid to qualify for the Olympics.

Meanwhile, 2014 Winter Olympian Byron has just returned to the snow after knee surgery earlier this year.

 - Tim Miller

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